The Vale of Glamorgan Council and Sustrans are partnering to deliver an innovative new project that could transform the way that domiciliary carers in the Vale travel for work.
The Travel with Care project will see the Council purchase a fleet of 30 e-bikes that can be used by domiciliary care workers for travelling to work as company vehicles.
Current domiciliary carers are often walkers, with no access to private vehicles and limited public transport available that meet their needs, particularly in more rural areas of the Vale.
The Council hopes that care workers who would like to will now be cycling e-bikes between calls, and that newly qualifying carers who cannot drive and may otherwise have chosen to work in residential care, will have the option of going into domiciliary care using an e-bike to get between calls.
Employees who need an e-bike to get to home visits will be able to borrow one as long as they want, with the project’s pilot phase set to run for a year from October 2023.
Care staff will also be provided with all the equipment needed to help get them around the Vale of Glamorgan for their caring work, including panniers, helmets, bike locks, hi-vis vests, and waterproof clothing.
Speaking on the impact that Travel with Care could have, Cllr Eddie Williams, Vale of Glamorgan Council Cabinet Member for Social Care and Health, said:
“The new partnership with Sustrans Cymru is great for our staff, the people they support, and the Council as a whole.”
“The benefits of regular exercises are well known. For a role that may otherwise mean a lot of time sat in the car, the e-bikes are great for helping our carers stay fit and healthy. There are mental wellbeing benefits, too.”
“The scheme also means that we are able to recruit people who don’t have access to their own vehicle and offer something a little different to potential recruits.”
“The benefits to our clients of staff being to get around more easily are clear.”
“Those working in towns, where the rollout is focused, will be able to travel quickly between addresses in built-up areas where congestion can be an issue.”
“Meanwhile, others operating in rural locations can access routes unavailable to cars.”
“The initiative will also help the Council meet its Project Zero commitment to become carbon neutral by 2030.”
Sustrans’ previous research has shown that women are disproportionately affected when it comes to transport inequalities – Sustrans’ Walking and Cycling Index has shown that, across the UK, women are less likely to cycle than men.
The same is the case for Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour compared to their White counterparts, and the demographic of domiciliary carers in the Vale of Glamorgan is mostly women and a high percentage of Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour.
One of the hopes for Travel with Care is that by making e-bikes available for free for as long as they’re needed to domiciliary care staff, this project will have a hugely positive impact on these disproportionately affected groups and empower them to travel actively.
Sustrans will deliver the e-bikes to care staff, provide them with training on how to operate and ride them safely, and facilitate any maintenance and repairs required, with the aim of having minimal impact on the ability of the carers to do their roles.
The project is being supported by funding originally intended to enable local authorities to increase their domiciliary support service capacity through funding driving lessons and providing access to electric vehicles.
By choosing to focus investment on e-bikes, the Council is furthering its decarbonisation agenda whilst also supporting its staff in improving their health and mental wellbeing through active travel.
Liz Rees, Programme Manager at Sustrans Cymru, said:
“This is a really exciting opportunity for us to work with a local authority that wants to pioneer something different.”
“It shows the Council’s commitment to both healthier and happier lifestyles for its staff and to reducing its carbon emissions in line with its 2030 net zero target.”
“It also demonstrates that environmentally conscious work-related travel is a very real option.”
“We know that travelling actively helps people with their health and well-being, and e-bikes are a great way of helping people to travel around areas with more challenging topography, such as the Vale.”
“Care staff will now be able to hop on an e-bike, in many cases reduce their travel time, increase their personal safety, and have the independence to get around that comes with access to cycling.”